Signature California Cocktails
Thursday, October 29, 2009 at 05:47 PM | Augusta Matthews
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Mai Tai

The legacy of Victor J. Bergeron a.k.a. Trader Vic is quite a tale. A small saloon owner-turned-restaurateur, his Oakland restaurant now has 25 locations worldwide. However, arguably his greatest claim to fame is the invention of the Mai Tai. The original recipe, invented at the original Trader Vic’s in the 1940s, included 17-year-old rum, orange Curacao, rock candy syrup, orgeat syrup (a barley-almond blend), with lime juice and mint. Although the recipe has become more simplified for cocktailers today, it still retains the Polynesian essence that was so important to Vic.

Harvey Wallbanger

Never heard of a Harvey Wallbanger? Have you been hiding under a rock?! Kidding – I’d never heard of it either. It seems to me like a cultural inside joke that’s referenced in cult films and by old rockers. Either way, the drink was invented by three-time world champion mixologist Donato “Duke” Antone. It’s rumored that it was named after a Manhattan Beach surfer who was a regular at Duke’s bar on Sunset Blvd. The drink is made up of vodka, orange juice and Galliano, a sweet herbal liqueur, and garnished with an orange slice and a maraschino cherry. Antone is also supposedly the creator of the White Russian, the Rusty Nail and something called the Freddie Fudpucker. Must have had some interesting characters posted up at Duke’s bar back in the day…



Shirley Temple

It may not contain alcohol, but this ever-popular mocktail also originated in California. The drink was invented for the well-known child actress who frequented Chasen’s restaurant in Beverly Hills during the height of her fame in the 1930s. Being so young, Shirley wasn’t allowed to drink alcohol while at parties visiting with other famous actors. The bartender’s solution? Well, that’s pretty obvious. The original and more complex kiddie cocktail combined ginger ale, grenadine syrup and orange juice, garnished with maraschino cherries and a lemon slice. If you’re feeling youthful and order one today, you’ll get the modern standard of 7up and grenadine. But perhaps if you flash your baby blues at the bartender, he’ll give you extra cherries.


The Rio 16

This has yet to become a signature cocktail or a staple in bars across the country, but it’s off to a good start. The Rio 16 was recently invented to honor the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, a first for South America. It was created by the spirit company Cabana Cachaca, the first company to launch an authentic version of Brazil’s national liquor in the U.S. The cocktail contains Cabana Cachaca, Veev Acai Liqueur, fresh kiwi juice and lime juice. Isla Cantina on Sunset Blvd. is one of only five bars in the country to serve the drink. It’s never too early to get excited about the Olympics, eh?

Tags: California, cocktails, Mai Tai, Trader Vic's, Oakland, Polynesian, Harvey Wallbanger, Donato 'Duke' Antone, Manhattan Beach, Sunset Blvd, White Russian, Rusty Nail, Freddie Fudpucker, Shirley Temple, Chasen's, Beverly Hills, The Rio 16, Olympics, Rio de Janeiro, South America, Brazil, Cabana Cachaca, Veev, Isla on Sunset